County home offering incentives for workers
Dick Moppin hopes the bounty he`s offering for new employees pays off.
Two weeks ago Moppin, administrator at the Leavenworth County Infirmary, began offering a $50 bonus to his employees if they recruit workers.
"There hasn`t been much response yet," Moppin said. "I do have one person for our dietary department who was referred by a current employee."
The county-owned nursing home has been plagued this year by difficulty in finding staff. That means the home cannot operate up to capacity, which means it is losing money.
Twice this year, the Leavenworth County Commission has transferred funds into the infirmary`s budget for a total $89,000 infusion.
"Whether it will be necessary to do that at the end of the year, I don`t know off the top of my head," said Moppin, who`s been administrator at the home since 1997.
In an effort to add revenue to the infirmary budget, residents` daily fees increased by $8.31 on Sept. 1 from the previous $80 rate.
Presently, about 10 staffing positions at the home are unfilled.
"As far as licensed nurses are concerned, this has happened before," Moppin said. "It`s almost kind of cyclical over a period of several years. There`s sometimes a nurse shortage, both locally and nationally. With nurse`s aides, I can`t remember not being able to find those job skills in the past. With the economy, any type of labor is at a premium. "Everybody`s got help wanted signs out. Other jobs are more attractive because they pay better and the job is not as hard work."
So with the blessing of the county commission, Mopping is offering $50 to existing employees for each new employee they recruit. Half is paid the day the new employee starts work, the other half is paid after 90 days.
Moppin also hopes that pay raises that went into effect Nov. 15 will help with recruitment and retention of employees.
"If nothing else, it will tell the staff here that we`re thinking about you and we appreciate what you do every day," Moppin said.
The salary adjustments included a 32-cent raise in the starting pay for certified nurse`s aides and medication aides.
"I think we`re on par with the pay now," he said. "I think probably our benefit package is better than most. The problem with benefits is that there`s nothing you can hold in your hand, like a paycheck."
The infirmary also is facing increased competition for its employees. Several assisted living centers have opened in the Leavenworth area during the past several years.
Questions about the county home`s future have exacerbated the problem.
"I think it may be part of the problem with us recruiting staff is for the past couple of years and even now there`s a lot of uncertainty in people`s minds about how long this facility will remain operating," Moppin said.
Two of the three county commissioners strongly support the home. In fact, Commissioner Bob Adams` mother is a resident at the infirmary.
"Nobody has ever said that it`s going to close," Moppin said. "That gets into the rumor mill, and I think people assume it`s going to happen."
If the home were to close, Moppin worries where its 42 residents would go.
"Are there 42 spaces available in the community for them?" he said.
Wayne Eldridge, who will leave the county commission in January, long has been a proponent of closing the home.
"We can still keep our kitchen that serves the jail and serves the Council on Aging," he said.
The infirmary, which cooks and delivers meals to prisoners in the county jail and senior citizens at Council on Aging meal sites, also lost some anticipated revenue when the new jail did not open on time. The infirmary`s May budget included an increase in the number of meals to the jail, but the new jail didn`t open until July.
Additional equipment, including stoves and refrigerators, had been purchased. So in an effort to recoup some of the costs of that equipment, prices for jail meals have increased.
"Beginning in January, those prices will go back down," Moppin said.
The administrator said he`s hopeful 2001 will bring better staffing conditions.
"I think we`ve reached the point where I was reluctant to admit more residents because I wasn`t sure I had additional staff to do what needed to be done," he said.